Cover image for The year I didn't go to school
The year I didn't go to school
Potter, Giselle.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, [2002]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Relates the experiences of children's author Giselle Potter when, at the age of seven, she toured Italy with her family's tiny theater company, The Mystic Paper Beasts.
General Note:
"An Anne Schwartz book."
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.5 0.5 64465.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3566.O697 Z477 2002 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS3566.O697 Z477 2002 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS3566.O697 Z477 2002 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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These are the best things that happened to me the year I didn't go to school: Traveled around Italy with my family's theatre troupe. Performed in a theatre outside. (I was a monkey, a panda, and a lion!) Ate spaghetti with fried egg on top. Slept in a truck. Wove cowboy boots. Ciao! (I spoke Italian.) Kept a journal to remember everything that happened.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 1^-3. "When I was seven, I didn't go to school for a whole year," begins Potter. Instead, the lucky girl and her family flew to Italy to tour and perform with their puppet theater company, The Mystic Paper Beasts. This episodic travelogue, complete with charming chunks of Potter's actual scrapbook journal, chronicles their Italian adventure. She remembers when two policemen demanded their permits to perform, how their carnival truck got stuck in a narrow street (and nuns helped push it out), the way they ate spaghetti with a fried egg on top--the sorts of things that impress children. Although the glimpses of Italian piazzas are expertly composed with Potter's usual pleasing palette, the illustrations generally don't convey a sense of place. And although Potter points out that Italy is shaped like a boot, there is no map to show its placement in Europe or to designate the towns her family visited. This lovely family keepsake may miss its mark with a wider audience, but children who enjoy the taste of travel should be taken by the journey. --Karin Snelson

Publisher's Weekly Review

In her first venture as both writer and illustrator, Potter (Gabriella's Song) proves as adept with words as she is with images, spinning a lyrical account of the year she toured Italy with her family's theater troupe. After packing their steamer trunks with "puppets, masks, and musical instruments," their grandparents see them off at the airport. Then seven-year-old Giselle, her little sister, Chloe, and their parents are off in an old wooden carnival truck across "the country that's shaped like a boot." From their not-so-stellar debut at a piazza in Florence (the police scold them for not having a permit, their truck gets stuck in a narrow street and they are rescued by nuns) to their grand finale performance in Rome, Potter wisely filters her reminiscences through the eyes of her child-self. She alights on details most likely to intrigue a young audience (such as "bread you could roll up into little balls" and a circus performer named Eva "who could hang by her long hair and play the tuba"). The captivating account makes the exotic setting come alive (e.g., "We ate little pizzas with thin crusts until our bellies puffed up, and watched people dancing under the sparkly lights"), as does the fittingly quirky mixed-media artwork. Her instantly recognizable elongated faces and disproportionate bodies all arms and legs particularly suit her free-spirited family. Endpapers sporting journal entries, homework assignments, drawings and more from Potter's original trip make the foreign backdrop immediately accessible. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-The title is certain to pique children's curiosity, and the quirky autobiographical story will quickly pull them in. Potter's first-person narration describes the year her family's theater troupe traveled throughout Italy, living in a truck amid their masks, puppets, and musical instruments. The illustrator's signature figures, with almond-shaped heads and curved legs that end in tiny feet, take to the stage in costumes with transparent veils and papier-mache heads, enacting whimsical tales. Potter's pencil, ink gouache, and watercolor scenes capture classic details of Italian culture, from the pigeons, roasted chestnuts, and fountains to the chastising glances of the nuns and the unyielding behavior of the espresso drinkers. The text is sprinkled with rhymed journal pages, Italian phrases, and a "picture dictionary" restaurant tablecloth. The endpapers reproduce pieces of Potter's actual childhood journal; she was seven at the time. Anyone who has lived or traveled abroad will relate to the child's perspective of a new culture. Others will be fascinated with the troubadour lifestyle, e.g., toddler Chlo' sleeping in a drawer, a serendipitous encounter with a stranger that leads to a pizza garden party. A madcap journey from a gifted storyteller.-Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.